Positions for Breastfeeding

By Kristin Miller

Breastfeeding begins soon after you welcome your little one into the world.

After all the waiting, planning and preparing, your baby has arrived! The planning and preparation doesn’t stop once the baby is born. Once you have your little one in your arms, their need to feed will closely follow your first bonding moments. Breastfeeding will continue to foster that bond. In the beginning, the goal is to simply get the hang of breastfeeding. You will most likely be focused on fostering your newborn’s latch, checking for the correct sounds and motions, and monitoring how you feel during the experience. Another important detail to focus on is breastfeeding position. There are so many positions for breastfeeding to try. There is no “correct” position; it is a very individual preference. Just like parenting, finding the right position will be a case of trial and error! The keys to finding the right position for you are finding the right support material, examining your needs, examining your baby’s needs, and ultimately seeing what works.

Breastfeeding support materials are crucial for new moms.

You probably registered for some breastfeeding supports, and that’s great! If you are delivering in a hospital, these supports should be part of your packing list. Although the hospital will provide pillows to keep you comfortable, most breastfeeding support materials are extra firm to provide optimal support. It may be cumbersome to pack it for the hospital, but keeping you comfortable post birth is an important thing to do. I had an emergency C-section after going to the hospital to be monitored for dehydration, and we didn’t think to pack my breastfeeding pillow because we didn’t think the baby would be born yet! When my husband went and got it the next morning, breastfeeding became so much easier with the pillow designed to assist and support me. There are many nursing pillows on the market today, the choices seem endless! Below are some of the top rated pillows by Mommy Edition for you to consider when choosing what pillow will best fit your needs.

The New Boppy Nursing Pillow

This pillow is the name most synonymous with nursing pillow. Boppy has to be the most popular brand out there, recognized by moms and registry purchasers alike! They redesigned their original pillow to give it the extras that moms need. This updated version has a soft and hard side, providing you with whatever level of firmness you need. It is taller, enabling you to simply use the pillow while nursing where you may have once needed to prop additional pillows underneath. Because of its C shape, it can also be used for propping up the baby, tummy time and neck support for you while bottle feeding or relaxing. The main downside is that the cover is not removable, so in order to wash it the whole pillow must be washed.

My Brest Friend Deluxe Pillow

This pillow has some great features for both mom and baby. A great feature for mom is built in lumbar support. Moms often have poor posture during nursing, and this pillow helps prevent that! The storage pocket is an excellent addition, providing space for a bottle of water, cell phone, lotion or whatever you need close at hand while feeding. Its firm, flat design keeps babies at an even level, preventing them from shifting forward or backwards. This affordable option also has a model for twins, making it a great choice for moms of multiples. Smaller petite women may find it to be too bulky, so try it out at a store before choosing this as your breastfeeding pillow.

Luna Lullaby Bosom Baby Pillow

This is the largest pillow in this list. It is ideal for curvaceous moms, C-section moms or mothers who plan to nurse for more than a year. It has a removable cover making it easy to clean. This pillow can also be used with multiples. In addition to being a breastfeeding pillow, the Luna Lullaby Bosom Baby Pillow can also be used by mom as a maternity sleeping pillow or for neck support while sitting. Some would say the pillow is too bulky for their taste, or that the fabric is too warm. As stated previously, testing out these pillows beforehand will help you make the best decision for you.

The Nesting Pillow Organic Nursing Pillow

If you are trying to keep your items organic, this is the nursing pillow for you! This pillow, which feels similar to a bean bag, is made with organic cotton and buckwheat hulls. Since it is filled with buckwheat and cotton, the pillow does not cause babies to overheat. As with other pillows, The Nesting Pillow has multiple uses including being effective for C-section moms, back and neck support for mom, tummy time, and assisting babies to sit up. Although the cover can be removed for washing, this pillow’s cover only comes in white. Babies come with lots of stain potentials! This is also an expensive pillow which can be tricky to master, so consider saving the receipt in case you decide it’s not the pillow for you.

San Diego Bebe Twin Eco Nursing Pillow

This pillow is ideal for moms of multiples. It is large enough to support two babies at one time with a firm pillow with just the right amount of support. The top’s angle allows for better latching, a great feature for new moms and babies alike. Some models even come with back support and a built in nursing cover! This pillow also has a storage pocket, which is essential for moms who will most likely have both hands taken up. The covers are machine washable, but come in limited color options. Some users say it loses shape in less than a year, so be aware that the investment in this pillow may have to be made again if it is the right pillow for you.

My Brest Friend Inflatable Travel Nursing Pillow

If you plan on traveling with a young baby and do not want to pack a bulky nursing pillow, this is a great addition to your registry. This inflatable pillow travels well due to its lightweight design. The built in lumber support is a great feature for moms after hours of traveling. The cover is machine washable, allowing you to rid any germs easily. Its low price makes it a strong consideration if you would like to use the leftover suitcase space for some extra onsies! You will have to blow it up before using, and most likely refill it after a few uses, just like an air mattress or inflatable tube.

As was stated previously, try out your pillow beforehand.

Read the manual or watch YouTube videos to see if you can get the hang of setting up the pillow on your own. Chances are you will not always have assistance when you need to nurse your baby. See how easy it is for you to maneuver the pillow with one hand. If you find one that you like that isn’t on this list, try it out! These were just a few suggestions to help you comfortably get your baby into position to feed.

There are many breastfeeding positions for you to choose from.

It’s not like you see in the movies where all the moms hold the baby the same way and all is well. Breastfeeding positions are not just about your comfort, they can help with how effectively you breastfeed your baby. If your baby doesn’t seem to be eating well in one position, try another! You may find yourself changing positions because of your comfort, to support your baby’s feeding needs, or because of your baby’s growth. The following are the top positions according to the popular breastfeeding group La Leche League.

Laid Back Breastfeeding. This position is exactly like it sounds! In this position, the mom lays back on some sort of support to be slightly elevated. The right amount of elevation will allow the baby to be on top of you without the danger of falling off. With the baby’s face toward you, allow the baby to be in any position comfortable; this could include stomach to stomach or cradling the baby’s back. The baby’s cheek should be touching your breast, promoting rooting and eventually latching. This position creates a great opportunity for skin to skin during nursing. Skin to skin would be especially helpful if a baby is irritable when it’s time to nurse.

Cradle Position. This is the most common breastfeeding position, often seen on movies, ads and television as the normal breastfeeding position. It is a good position to use for newborns because mom offers support and can clearly see the extent of the baby’s latch. The baby lies across your lap as you cradle them on their side. For this position, baby should be at nipple height, so use that handy nursing pillow! The baby’s head should be in your forearm while your inner arm and palm support the baby’s back. If you are doing the position correctly, there should be a straight line from the baby’s ear shoulder and hip. This is an ideal position for moms who give birth vaginally. C-Section moms may have difficulty putting the baby on their lap due to their healing incision.

Cross-Cradle Position. This is a hybrid of the Cradle Position, and is also a good choice for the early days of breastfeeding. Contrary to the cradle position, your opposite arm supports the baby’s neck and back with the support of a pillow (For example, if you are feeding on the right breast, your left hand would support the baby). Your fingers cup the baby’s head while your palm supports the baby’s back, essentially creating a second spine. In this position, wait until the baby opens its mouth then move the baby up to your breast. This is a good position for babies who are, well, lazy! Some babies take longer to come out of their sleepy newborn state than others, and getting them to latch may be challenging. The Cross-Cradle Position can help you control the baby’s latch. If you find that you need to give your baby a little extra help to start feeding, blow on their face, get them naked, or wipe them with a cold wash cloth. This position is only using one hand, so your other is free to stimulate your baby to get them to latch.

Clutch/Football Position. Imagine how a NFL player running towards the end zone holds their football: that’s this position! To do this position correctly, cup your baby’s head with your hand so he is facing you and his mouth is toward your nipple (For example, your right arm supports the baby to feed on your right breast). As always, use a pillow to support the rest of your baby’s body. Their legs will go behind you under your arm. Make sure their heels face the ceiling; this prevents them from launching themselves during the feeding. This is a good option for C-section moms, as it keeps the baby away from the healing incision.

Side-lying Position. This position is a tired mom’s bread and butter. In this position, you and your baby will lay on your sides while facing each other. For added support for your baby, place their head on your forearm to hold them close and prevent rolling away. Another additional measure to prevent rolling away is to place a pillow or towel behind the baby’s back. Keep in mind that the baby’s ears, shoulder and hip should be in one straight line for optimal milk consumption. C-section moms beware: you may think you want to do this in the middle of the night, but check yourself when the baby wakes to see how your body is feeling. Turning sideways could put added strain on your stitches, so holding off until your stitches are clear may be a good idea.

Finding the best position means finding the most comfortable position for you and your baby.

Babies need help in positioning too! Despite using a nursing pillow, babies will still need your help getting ready to feed. There are many red flags that may come up between the two of you that will cause you to try out new positions.

Position red flags for mom.

These will be easy for you to notice, since you are evaluating yourself! Monitor how you feel while feeding. Now, breastfeeding may be painful at first, but your breasts should not be in pain for the entire feed, nor should the rest of your body be in pain for the entire feed (For more information, see “Breastfeeding Pain” section). If your breasts or nipples are in pain for long periods of time, consider trying a new position to assist your baby’s latch (For more information, see “The Importance of the Latch” section). There will be an understandable amount of discomfort when you begin breastfeeding, as you most likely will not be monitoring your posture at one o’clock in the morning! However, if you are in constant pain in your arms or back, consider trying a less strenuous position. Also, try adding more pillows if you feel the position is working for your baby but your body needs more support. My son experienced a growth spurt and gained a pound in one week! That pound seemed to magnify my back pain, and I changed positions to alleviate the strain. This has helped me build up strength as he has continued to grow at rapid fire pace! Remember, if you or the baby are uncomfortable, you will probably have a difficult time while breastfeeding. If you can’t seem to find the right position where you feel comfortable, considering contacting a lactation consultant to help you figure out what will work best for you (For more information, see “Lactation Consultant” section).

Position red flags for baby.

For the first few weeks of your baby’s life, you are getting to know each other. Your new relationship is in a warp speed motion of becoming intimately acquainted with one another while breastfeeding. Although it can become mechanical, especially during the third middle of the night feed, be sure to monitor your baby for red flags. Babies general let you know when they are upset, but newborns may not know something is wrong. First, be sure their nose is clear in the position you have chosen. Babies use their nose to suck, swallow, breath, and if it is covered it can be detrimental to eating and breathing. If your breast is too large for your baby and their nose is continually covered, push your finger down on it near your baby’s nose to ensure clear passage. If this doesn’t work, try a position where your breast will not be pressed downward on your baby’s mouth and nose. A big red flag is gulping and choking. This is most likely caused by a forceful letdown, channeling too much milk at one time to your baby. Another read flag is an extra fussy baby during the feeding. This could be for many reasons, including reflux, food allergy, gas, or too much milk at once. Once you have ruled out reflux, gas, or an overabundance of milk, consult your doctor concerning potential food allergies or sensitivities. If you or your doctor believes that the baby’s irritability is related to one of the other red flags, the following are some positions that can be helpful when trying to help your baby be in a comfortable while eating.

Best position for a baby with reflux or frequent spitting up.

Babies who frequently spit up or have reflux have many of the same symptoms and recommendations for breastfeeding. It is recommended to feed babies with reflux and frequent spitting up often, as they may not be able to keep their food down to process it. Reflux can be magnified and spitting up can be caused by forceful letdown combined with a position that doesn’t meet the needs of your baby. The Kelly Mom suggests the Laid Back breastfeeding position would be a great position for babies with reflux or frequent spitting up. As the baby gets older, it may be harder to continue this position as the baby grows. An adjustment could be made to keep your baby upright while breastfeeding. To do this, lie on your back and allow the baby to lay on you, arms on your stomach and chest, hands touching your breasts. The baby will look like she is kneeling to eat. This is recommended for babies with good head control, allowing them to turn away when they are finished. Another option recommended by Kelly Mom that is good for using in public, is seating the baby upright and next to you facing toward your breast. Support their head as they lean in to feed. It may not make your baby stop spitting up or rid them of reflux, but it will help both mom and baby enjoy nursing with less discomfort.

Best position for a gassy baby.

Gassy babies are not happy after breastfeeding – and for good reason! They don’t know how to express the digestive pain that they are going through. There are many things you can do to help a gassy baby. A few options recommended by Breastfeeding-Problems.com include monitoring “gassy” foods you may eat that could contribute to the problem, burping the baby often, keeping the baby upright after feeding, and giving the baby a stomach massage about thirty minutes after feeding. When it comes to the best feeding position for a gassy baby, it is recommended that an upright position will allow a smooth flow of the milk to your baby and aid in digestion. The Laid Back breastfeeding position would be perfect for this, making sure that you elevate yourself to almost completely sitting up and laying your baby on her belly side down.

Best position for forceful letdown.

Forceful letdown is when the milk supply drops into your breasts and is overwhelming to your baby. There will often be choking or spitting sounds if this is happening for your little one. Possible side effects were listed above, showing that adjustments in position are needed for forceful letdown. As stated previously by Kelly Mom, any upright position will help the milk go down smoothly. In addition to having your baby in an upright position, consider ways to help your baby with forceful letdown. Pumping for a minute or two before feeding will help get some of the explosive amounts of milk out, helping your baby avoid the “opening of the floodgates” effect. It is also suggested that you should allow the baby to eat from one breast until they pull away. If they are filled up from one breast, pump the other breast to alleviate engorgement. Trust me, freezing extra breast milk is only a good thing! Your baby will catch up to your supply as his stomach grows.

There are a few cautions you should be aware of when it comes to breastfeeding positions.

Whether you feel like a veteran or are barely staying afloat from the on demand feeding, there are two breastfeeding position cautions I want to leave you with.

Don’t fall asleep. This seems like a silly thing to say, but when you are in the trenches of feeding at 11:00PM, 1:00AM, 2:30AM, 4:00AM and so on, you are tired. The easiest solution would be to feed the baby in the side-laying position. My word of caution is: know thy self. If you fall asleep easily, be extra aware of the potential that you may fall asleep while feeding your baby. If this happens, you may not be aware of covering the baby, pushing the baby, or the baby rolling out of bed. I personally fall asleep within seconds, so I never used the side-laying position. I caught myself falling asleep in my glider chair while breastfeeding, so I stopped using that to nurse in the middle of the night. I made sure to put myself in a position where I was awake as possible because I was exhausted. You can set an alarm on your phone as a precaution to wake you up if you think you may fall asleep.

Continue to use support as you continue on your breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding pillows are not just for newborns! As your baby grows, support is still important for you both. I personally got lazy about breaking out my nursing pillow, especially at 5:00AM, and developed tendinitis in my wrist due to overusing it to support my baby. If you lose the support in your breastfeeding positions, you may run the risk of injuring or straining your neck and back as well. Continue doing what works, no matter how cumbersome the setup is! (For more information, see “The Perfect Breastfeeding Setup” section).

Your breastfeeding positions will become part of your everyday life. Remember that these special moments will be even more enjoyable when both mom and baby are comfortable.